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Part of the Picture

Realizing that I am vital to the happiness of my family, I enter the frame.

Phot by Daniel J.

by Christa Fontenot
Eunice, La.

Through the kitchen window of my mobile home parked in my father’s backyard, I spied my daughter in a blue shirt, her hair cut short and flying in the wind. All grown up, she was even more beautiful than I remembered. She was speaking with my father, her arms flung around his German shepherd panting in a pool of sunshine. One look told me she was happy; one look flooded me with emotion and was all it took for me to forget myself completely. I made for the door, to step outside, call her name and close the distance with a hug. My hand was on the knob when Lucy, my Jack Russell, gave a sharp little bark from the couch, snapping me back to Earth—there was a reason I wasn’t already outside holding my daughter; I’d hurt her too deeply, too often. 

Six years had passed since my daughter had cut ties with me in 2013, unable to watch me spiral in and out of destructive addictions to painkillers and alcohol. My heart hammering, I let my hand fall from the knob. I’d been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for a month, beginning in February 2019, my earliest and most consistent prayer being for my daughter’s happiness. How or when I’d be a part of that happiness, I had no idea, but there it was, proof of my prayer, just outside my window: My daughter looked happy.

By then, I’d been chanting in earnest for a month, since a three-woman troupe had come to my door in February. In the lead was a spritely gray-haired Japanese lady holding two bags, one of books, one of cookies. 

“Hello!” she cried. “I love these! These are for you!”

Behind their visit was my friend, DeJohn, whom I’d met in the addiction treatment community and who’d told me about Buddhism. I was four years sober by then but was keenly seeking a spiritual practice that could help me help other women still on the path to recovery. He had asked these women to visit me out here in Eunice. After we chanted, the lady with the cookies got straight to the point. 

“So, why Buddhism?”

I explained about my history of addiction. Though I’d maintained a strong relationship with my son and my father, I was estranged from both my mother and daughter, and had caused suffering to all of them. She nodded and laid her hand on the knee of the younger woman beside her. “This is my daughter. We weren’t always friends. It took a lot of daimoku! Please chant for anything. No dream is too big.” 

After they left, I opened up my little book of goals. I didn’t know where to start, but after a while I picked up my pen and in the upper corner of one page wrote simply: Mom.

As with my daughter, it didn’t seem right for me to expect my mother to open her heart just because I felt ready to open mine. Nonetheless, I put her foremost in my prayers, bearing in mind the words “no dream is too big.” 

Two weeks later, my phone rang, and I recognized the number, my mom’s. More calls followed until we were speaking regularly, openly, becoming friends. 

What had once seemed impossible had become a reality almost overnight. After that first call, I sat down with my book of goals and wrote what I hadn’t yet dared—my daughter’s name. 

In the meantime, chanting and studying Buddhism brought about other changes. For one, I was bringing greater courage and compassion into my work sponsoring women in recovery. One day, one of these women arrived to a workshop high. After, some more-
experienced sponsors advised I give up on her. Normally, I would have listened. Instead, I heard myself flatly refuse.

“I’m not giving up on her. I don’t need a person to come to me perfect for me to believe in them.”  

Looking back, I see that these words came from the deepened faith in humanity I’d gained through chanting and reading the guidance of Ikeda Sensei. 

In January 2022, my mother called with “something to discuss.” Hesitantly, she said, “Your daughter is pregnant.” I shrieked in joy, and then my breath caught. 

“Mom, did she give you permission to tell me?” 

“She did.” 

 “And do you think I can reach out? 

“I do.”

Hanging up, I broke down, calling out through my tears to my fiancé, DeJohn (yes, the very one who’d introduced me to Buddhism). He, too, cried tears of joy. 

“Please chant for anything. No dream is too big.”

Christa with her husband, DeJohn Scott. Photo by Daniel J.

I texted my daughter, congratulating her. She shot a text right back asking if we could meet for coffee. Blue must be her color—I spotted her right away at the café, big with the baby, in a blue dress. 

At this sit-down, we laughed and cried. She had some difficult questions, but those were what I’d come to answer. 

Then she explained that her husband was hesitant to have me over. Given my past, he had valid concerns. I said right away: “I’m so glad he loves you so much and is such a protective husband and father-to-be. I have no motive except to hopefully get to know you better.”

I continued to chant for her and her baby wholeheartedly each day. But a few weeks later, a realization struck: I had not been chanting for my son-in law! I started right away.

Three days later, my daughter texted that her husband had a change of heart! 

We met for dinner and talked late, and I could see the love they shared, the wish for the other’s happiness. I don’t think there’s a word to describe the feeling when they asked me to be part of their life. I was crying; my daughter, too. We all were. The most overjoyed was maybe my son-in-law, glowing with happiness that his wife would have her mother again. 

That night, I realized another thing: For the longest time, I’d been chanting for my daughter’s happiness, a happiness that was hers, unshakable and resilient, in spite of all the pain I’d caused. But it had not occurred to me that perhaps my presence, as a strong, positive force within my family, was an essential part of the picture. 

“Whatever your circumstances, whatever your past, the forces that determine your future are nowhere but within your own heart and mind. It is here that the star of your destiny shines.” 

from Ikeda Sensei (

December 16, 2022, World Tribune, p. 11

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